Graduated adult education will be affected by funding cut

Free schooling options for graduated adults taking upgrading in the Comox Valley just got slimmer.

Free schooling options for graduated adults taking upgrading in the Comox Valley just got slimmer — and completion deposits are a possibility in the future.According to Russell Horswill, School District 71 secretary treasurer, changes in funding from the Province’s Education Guarantee mean fewer Ministry-funded courses, although English 12, Biology 12, Math 11 and 12, Chemistry 11 and Physics 11 will still be eligible for Ministry funding.Non-graduated adults and students under 19 taking upgrading will still have access to the same free courses as before.Also, for graduated adult students enrolled in eligible courses after the beginning of this month, school districts will receive only 75 per cent of the funding up front, with the other 25 per cent coming only when a student completes a set amount of course work.Next year that number jumps to 50 per cent of funding withheld until a set amount of course work is completed.Horswill said completion deposits will be looked at by School District 71 — if students do not complete their courses to a certain level, which has yet to be defined, the district would be on the hook for remainder of the funding. But for now students won’t need to pay.”At this point in time we are accepting adult registrations without a completion deposit,” explained Horswill. “This practice will be reviewed in the future as we learn how the new funding rules will affect our revenues and related program cost.”Horswill noted SD71 received close to $950,000 from the Education Guarantee last year, but expects to receive about $300,000 this year.Meanwhile, other courses will not be eligible for funding at all.”Charging fees is something that school boards and administration will have to wrap our heads around as far as those courses that are no longer eligible,” added Horswill.Although he said the district will have to do a review of what those courses could cost, he said $400 to $500 would not be far off his guess.  Horswill added the impact of the change will be felt in the Comox Valley as only about 1.9 per cent of the total student population in the province is here, but about six per cent of B.C.’s adult education learners are here.”The Comox Valley has a high proportion of the adult learners in the province,” he said. “So it’s a large impact for the Comox Valley School District.”Navigate, powered by North Island Distance Education, principal Jeff Stewart added many graduated adults in the Comox Valley take the school’s language courses, adding Navigate had the largest international languages program in the province.”The biggest hit, of course for Navigate, is international language courses which are a huge part of our platform in the graduated adult population, and they’re immensely popular because of the Rosetta Stone program that we use,” explained Stewart. “That is gone. There are no language courses that we can continue to offer (graduated adults) under the new guidelines of the EG (Education Guarantee).”It hits about 20 per cent of our enrolment overall.”Stewart added Rosetta Stone language programs are still available directly through www.rosettastone.ca, but it would be too costly to offer them through Navigate — likely $550 per course.Navigate will continue to provide service to the graduated adults enrolled in courses before May 5 with no extra fees or costs. But any new registrations will fall under the new guidelines which will be posted on the school website at www.nides.bc.ca as soon as they are finalized.Stewart added the Ministry plans to offer many of the non-eligible courses online for free through Open School BC but these courses would not be for credit so wouldn’t help those taking them for upgrading purposes.But Stewart said he believes the Ministry decision to cut back funding to graduated adult learning comes from a desire to focus on funding education for school-aged kids and non-graduated adults.”I think that’s really the decision — to make the bookends of the education in the province work — so it’s a necessary change from their perspective and we’ve just got to roll with it,” said Stewart.writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com